Royalties, greenhouse gas rules get little ink in NDP's first throne speech

CALGARY – Two of the biggest issues hanging over Alberta’s oilpatch got little ink in the new NDP government’s first throne speech.

There were no new details on the approach to royalties or greenhouse gas regulations in the speech, read by new Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell in the chamber on Monday.

However, a promise to increase corporate taxes to 12 per cent from 10 per cent did feature prominently.

“We need to review how the people of Alberta — including our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many years from now — will be rewarded for the development of their own energy resources,” was the sole reference in the speech to the NDP’s vow to examine Alberta’s oil and gas royalty take.

The speech also highlighted the need to “demonstrate real leadership on the environment and on climate change” and urged stronger partnership with other provinces through a Canadian Energy Strategy.

But just because the nitty gritty of royalties and climate policy won’t be dealt with in this shortened legislative session doesn’t mean work isn’t being done on those files, Premier Rachel Notley told reporters earlier in the day.

She said it’s important to take the time to get the royalty review right, but “we also know that we can’t have it hanging over everyone’s head indefinitely.”

“You will hear from us by the end of the summer on the establishment of the panel, its mandate and its structure and how it’s going to move forward,” Notley said.

“We understand it’s an important issue. It’s an important issue to all Albertans. It’s an important issue to our partners in industry.”

Alberta’s $15-a-tonne carbon levy is up for renewal at the end of the month, but the speech made no mention of where that’s going.

That’s not to say greenhouse gas policy isn’t top of mind for Notley, especially with United Nations climate talks coming up later this year in Paris.

“It won’t be fun if nobody’s talking to me. I’d like it to be a different picture this time — that Alberta’s participation there is something that we can be proud of, not something that we’re running away from,” she told reporters.

“And so we’re very focused on making sure that we do put together a good plan. But quite honestly, in the next two and a half weeks, that’s not something that we’ll be focusing on.”

Notley said business leaders have “barely raised” the corporate tax matter in their discussions with her.

“They’ve not suggested that that is their concern and they’re more interested about ensuring that we can have a full dialogue in the climate change piece and the royalty piece.”

Brian Jean, leader of the Opposition Wildrose party, called Monday’s throne speech “thin.”

“I think that it would have been helpful for Alberta families and Alberta businesses to get a much clearer picture of this government’s priorities and how the future of Alberta’s economy will be laid out,” he said.

“That would be important to do now rather than later.”

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